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Ella on the Scene: A rookie's first taste of the NFL Combine

Head Coach Nick Sirianni
Head Coach Nick Sirianni

INDIANAPOLIS – Welcome to Ella on the Scene, NFL Combine edition. This is my first experience at the Combine, and I will take you along with me over the next week through the perspective of an Indianapolis rookie.

There wasn't much of an offseason for the Eagles this year following their Super Bowl appearance – the draft process is heating up. In the meantime, news broke throughout the day as the Eagles filled both of their coordinator vacancies. I have all that and more in today's column.

6:45 AM – It was an early wake-up call! Fran Duffy and I met at the NovaCare Complex before departing for the airport. 

8:27 AM – It's wheels up from Philly! A quick flight to the midwest before a busy day ahead. 

10:31 AM – We landed in Indianapolis, claimed our bags, and hopped in a taxi to our hotel. We checked in, picked up our credentials, and immediately headed to the Indiana Convention Center.

11:30 AM – We arrived at Radio Row inside the convention center, located the "Philadelphia Eagles" table, and set up our equipment for the week. Radio Row was buzzing. It was exciting seeing other teams' media groups set up around us. On the other side of Radio Row, national broadcasts were live and the press conference podiums lined the perimeter of the space. After coaches and general managers speak today, the Draft prospects' will take the stage for media availability the rest of the week.

Noon – Fran and I grabbed burgers at a local spot for lunch before a busy afternoon.

2:15 PM – Former Eagles defensive coordinator, now head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Gannon held a press conference – many Philly media were in attendance.

Gannon reflected on all the ways Nick Siranni prepared him for a head coaching role, noting that he's "extremely grateful to Nick," and he'll use a lot of things the pair talked about over the past few years with his new team.

3:10 PM – The Eagles announced Quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson was promoted to offensive coordinator, assuming playcalling duties next season as well.

Gannon was asked in his press conference about Johnson's promotion: "He's on it. He's an extremely detailed coach, and he's a very good communicator, and he'll do an excellent job for them."

In addition, Alex Tanney was named the quarterbacks coach, Marcus Brady a senior offensive assistant, and T.J. Paganetti the team's run game specialist/assistant tight ends coach.

3:42 PM – As Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman took the podium in Indianapolis, the team also announced the hiring of new Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai.

Desai spent the 2022 season serving as an associate head coach in Seattle. He's a disciple of defensive-minded coach, Vic Fangio, who was hired as a defensive consultant for the Eagles' trip to Super Bowl LVII. Desai has Philly ties too, as his coaching career began at Temple as a graduate assistant in 2007.

Roseman was also asked about the slew of players entering free agency this year – a storyline to watch closely as the offseason progresses.

"I think at the end of the day, our job during the season is to prepare for the offseason," Roseman said. "It's not like we wake up the day after the Super Bowl and say, 'Oh man, now we got to go figure out the team. This is what we've been doing."

Roseman went on to say that the organization is realistic and simply not capable of retaining all their free agents, "but we also understand that we're in a good situation in terms of picks that we have going forward."

Head Coach Nick Sirianni was next at the podium.

Sirianni commented on both coordinator hires, but went into great detail about the stability Brian Johnson's elevation provides.

"I'm in there with him every single day – seeing him work every single day, seeing him with the quarterbacks, seeing him in gameplanning meetings, seeing him on the practice field. So I thought that was the natural progression for us to go that route and his relationship with Jalen (Hurts)."

Hurts, who notoriously never had the same coaching staff for two straight years since high school until the 2022 season, loses Shane Steichen, but maintains Johnson who has been critical to his NFL development.

I asked Sirianni if there was an emphasis on providing Hurts consistency when selecting Johnson as the new offensive coordinator. Sirianni said there isn't going to be too much of a difference in the way the offense will look this fall, noting it's his job to keep good coaches in the building. He certainly wasn't going to let Coach Johnson get away.

"It's just going to be a different guy calling the plays, but still business as usual."

As the afternoon wrapped up, preparation for the rest of the week will continue through the night. Tomorrow, we will hear from defensive line and linebacker prospects, two units that will kick off on-field workouts from Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday. Fran and I will have new episodes on the Journey to the Draft podcast for you following every workout from Indianapolis. Meet me back here tomorrow as I recap Day 2 of the NFL Combine.

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